The Washington Redskins, wrecked physically, battered emotionally and tied in the race for an NFC wild-card spot, yesterday began picking up the pieces of Monday night's bruising 28-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
What had been a staggering injury list a night earlier looked only a bit better yesterday as the Redskins said quarterback Stan Humphries (knee), running back Gerald Riggs (arch) and wide receiver Walter Stanley (knee) were placed on injured reserve.
Those are the three immediate casualties of Monday's game, although wide receiver Joe Howard (concussion) won't play Sunday at RFK Stadium against the New Orleans Saints.
In addition, Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said quarterback Jeff Rutledge (bruised thumb) might be able to play this week, and that everyone else on what he called a record injury list -- linebacker Greg Manusky (knee), punter Ralf Mojsiejenko (ankle), tackle Ed Simmons (knee) and cornerback Darrell Green (calf) -- had a chance of playing against the Saints.
But yesterday's most significant piece of news was pretty much expected. Gibbs wasted no time announcing that Mark Rypien would return as his starting quarterback if his left knee holds up in practice this week.
Rypien has not even taken part in a full practice since injuring his knee seven weeks ago against Dallas. He was cleared to return to drills last week and met with Gibbs to tell him he was ready.
Gibbs asked trainers to run Rypien through more vigorous exercises to see how the knee held up. It passed every test and the two talked on the ride home from Philadelphia.
When they arrived at Redskin Park, the Redskins were once more hopeful that their quarterback for the '90s could at least be their quarterback for the remainder of 1990.
Rypien's expected return comes hours after a loss in which the Redskins were manhandled by the Philadelphia defense. Rutledge and Humphries were both knocked out of the game, leaving rookie running back Brian Mitchell to finish at quarterback.
The more the Redskins looked at the films yesterday, the more they saw things that bothered them. Their pass blocking had a rare bad night and was unable to stop a defense that rushed seven and eight men to the line of scrimmage, took away the running game and dared the Redskins to pass.
In the past, the Redskins prayed teams would blitz them and set up their wide receivers in one-on-one formations. These days, the Redskins have so much trouble at quarterback it hardly matters.
The Redskins counted three occasions in which Eagles blitzes left wide receiver Gary Clark alone down the field and Washington quarterbacks were unable to get him the ball. Equally incredible were the three naked bootlegs that Gibbs called. Each one fooled the Eagles completely, but the only completion came on a diving catch at the goalline by Don Warren.
So in turning back to Rypien, Gibbs is hopeful he'll finally have a triggerman for an offense that appears to be loaded in every position except one.
"We had a number of big plays we could have hit," Gibbs said. "If we hit one of those, it might change the whole complexion of the game. The next thing you know, you get yourself in a mess."
That's what happened Monday. The Philadelphia defense scored one touchdown on William Frizzell's 30-yard interception return and another when Clyde Simmons scooped up a fumble and ran it in from 18 yards out. But turnovers forced the Eagles to drive only 33 yards and nine yards for their other two scores.
Gibbs said the Washington defense came close to dominating the game and might have if Philadelphia's defense hadn't been even more dominating.
If nothing else, Rypien has not made mistakes. He threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions in 2 1/2 games. Those numbers have turned completely around for the Redskins the last five games -- 11 interceptions, three touchdown passes. Quarterbacks aren't to blame for all of them, and many in the organization still believe Humphries is their man for the '90s. But for now, the hope is that Rypien's experience will make a difference.
"It's very frustrating," Gibbs said. "It's been a constant thing and something we're going to have to overcome. We may have to find a way to win on defense and special teams for a while until we can find ourselves offensively. But Rip feels good and wants to take a shot and see how he feels."
Rypien acknowledged that there would be tremendous pressure to come in and play well. He also acknowledged his knee would get a quick test since the Redskins play the Saints on Sunday, then face Dallas Thanksgiving Day.
"It's my opportunity to take the bull by the horns," he said. "I'm eager to get back out there and see what I can and can't do. It's an opportunity to help find a way to get us into the playoffs. One great way would be to be able to jump in and perform."
He suffered a torn ligament when Dallas's Dean Hamel was rolled into him, and since undergoing an arthroscopic exam, has taken six weeks of therapy. In recent weeks, he has been able to straighten the knee as well as run and cut and had no swelling or severe soreness.
If Rypien can't play, Gibbs said Gary Hogeboom probably would start unless Rutledge had a miracle recovery. As for Rutledge, he wouldn't rule out being able to play. He said his sprained thumb felt better today and much would depend on whether or not he's able to grip the ball at today's practice.
Meanwhile, Humphries found out the injury to his left knee -- a stretching of ligaments -- wasn't as bad as originally feared when he was dragged down by All-Pro end Reggie White. He had little swelling yesterday morning and was able to walk gingerly on the knee.
Team doctors believe he'll be back on the practice field in a couple of weeks and ready to play in four.
The loss also left the Redskins (5-4) and Eagles (5-4) tied in the race for the first NFC wild-card spot. The Redskins still hold a tiebreaker edge for the home-field advantage, but Gibbs wouldn't even speculate on such a thing.
The Saints are 4-5 and they, too, have a chance to tie the Redskins with a victory on Sunday. "This is about as beat up as we've ever been and we're playing a team on the rise," Gibbs said. "I'd say this is going to take one of our best efforts. We're in for a tough haul. I don't think it could be much worse."
The injury to Riggs may be lost in the search for a quarterback, but it appears to be similar to the one he suffered last season that sidelined him most of seven games.
"I'd been hoping to get off artificial turf without this happening," Riggs said. "It's one of those freak things. I've never seen anything like that game."
The Redskins will replace Riggs, Humphries and Stanley on the roster this way: They'll shift Rypien from injured reserve to the 47-man roster to replace Humphries. Running back Reggie Dupard, cut in training camp, will be signed to replace Riggs, although Mitchell will move up the depth chart behind Earnest Byner.
Wide receiver Stephen Hobbs will be shifted from the developmental squad to replace Stanley, and wide receiver Carl Harry, cut in 1989, will replace Hobbs.
In addition, long snapper Randy Kirk was released as expected and will be replaced by cornerback Johnny Thomas, who has been on injured reserve.
PLACED ON IR LIST
Stan Humphries, QB, knee
Gerald Riggs, RB, arch
Walter Stanley, WR, knee
WON'T PLAY SUNDAY
Joe Howard, WR, concussion
MAY PLAY SUNDAY
Jeff Rutledge, QB, thumb
Ralf Mojsiejenko, P, ankle
Greg Manusky, LB, knee
Ed Simmons, OT, knee
Darrell Green, CB, calf
Mark Rypien will be activated and may start Sunday against New Orleans.
Wide receiver Stephen Hobbs will be moved from practice squad to 47-man roster to replace Stanley. Carl Harry will be signed for practice squad to replace Hobbs.
Running back Reggie Dupard, cut in training camp, will be signed to replace Riggs.
Long snapper Randy Kirk, signed for one game, was released. Cornerback Johnny Thomas will be moved from injured reserve to 47-man roster to replace him.